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The term " drone " refers first and foremost to a target aircraft. An automated aerodyne and the associated implementation system are also called "UAVs" (for " Unmanned Aerial Vehicle " or "air vehicle without human on board") and more and more often "UAS" (for " Unmanned Aircraft System"). " Or" aircraft system (s) without human (s) on board ").

The organization of the International Civil Aviation has meanwhile retained the name "PSAR" (for " Remotely Piloted Aircraft System " or "aircraft system controlled remotely").

The use of the word "drone" to describe a vehicle or robot land, surface or submarine, with autonomy, is a French particularity. The US classification of self-contained, man-made mobile aircraft in UAV / UAS (air), USV / USS (surface), UUV / UUS (submarines), UGV / UGS (land robots) is the most commonly used in the world .

The term "drone systems" tends to predominate because the drone is part of a system that is composed of:

one or more air vectors equipped with detection sensors (with possible intruder detection systems in "uncertain environment"  );
one or more stations on the ground control and collection detections;
radio data links between the overhead vector and the ground portion.
The term "drone" refers most of the time to the equipped air vector. It is this vector alone which is uninhabited, the system makes him appeal to humans, the tele-pilot in particular.

The family of military drones is subdivided into subcategories according to their speed, their range and their functions:

the micro- and mini-drones , generally not autonomous, but often act as "remote binoculars" 6 , for example to watch over an obstacle or a danger zone;
Tactical drones, slow or fast, medium or high endurance, fixed or rotary wing called TUAV (for " Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicle " ) 7 or VTOL ( " Vertical Take-off and Landing " ) 6 . For NATO, a UAV is "a powered air vehicle, which does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic force to provide lift, can fly autonomously or be remotely piloted, be non-reusable or recoverable, and carry lethal or non-lethal payload. Ballistic or semi-ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and artillery projectiles are not considered drones 6 » ;
the drones flying at medium altitude and endurance called MALE (for " Medium Altitude Long Endurance " ) 8 ;
high altitude and high endurance UAVs (called " High Altitude Long Endurance " ) 9 ;
the combat drones , also called UCAV (for " Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle " ) 10 ;
Automated transport vehicles appear to be in preparation, including for the transport of personnel 6 , which could also be used for rescue at sea 6 .
Flying machines of reduced size, cheaper and easier to implement than an airplane (the presence of a pilot imposes a dimension to an inhabited aircraft, and its ejection device alone represents a mass greater than that of a Predator ), they are more discreet and their loss is less serious than that of a device and its pilot. They represent an interesting alternative for countries with limited budgets, and potentially for potential terrorists (state or non-state), smugglers and drug traffickers.

Advances in computing and technology have made some drones target- designation platforms or weapons . They also serve the collection of information and in the electronic warfare (including for jamming or interception of communications) 6 . Their missions are then the ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Recognition ) or the ISTAR (for " Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Recognition ").

Their civil applications include controls on traffic, the maritime surveillance 11 and environmental air search operations and rescue, the collection of data of interest weather or difficult environment (area CBRN risk - "nuclear, radiological, bacteriological and chemical "- for example), the relay of information, the taking of aerial photographs or even the direct acquisition of photogrammetric data  ...

Some are technological demonstrators that validate at lower cost, thanks to downscaling and therefore the amount of materials needed, aerodynamic formulas or certain equipment, without risking the life of a test pilot . They also make it possible to reach the limits of an aircraft, surpassing those that could support a pilot (+9 g / -3 g maximum), in order to confirm its solidity.

Their size varies from a few centimeters to several tens of meters (nearly 40 meters span for a Global Hawk ). Their shapes also, like their types of propulsion : some are equipped with reactors , others propellers , when others use rotors , like helicopters (sometimes called UAR, for " Unmanned aerial rotorcraft " ). "Terrestrial drones" are also used, particularly for the inspection of vehicles or an environment at risk.



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